Homemade Pizza

Joe and I decided to start (or I should say re-start from my childhood) a family tradition!  Making pizza!     Every Friday, when I was growing up was pizza night!  We would sometimes order pizza if we were busy or if my brother’s or I had something going on…or my Mom would make her own!  I can still remember the smell that took over my house on those nights!  It may be the BEST smell in the world!     Sauce, bubbling on the stove, dough being rolled out, cheese being shredded….and then once it was in the oven……Mmmmmmmmmmm

Now that I have my own family and the girls are getting old enough to help out I am excited to start this tradition and have it continue as long as we can!  Friday nights we normally don’t have anything going on aside from swim.  So I usually pull the dough early in the afternoon so it’s room temperature when I’m ready to roll.  I also start the sauce early and let it simmer for a while.   This is when those familiar smells begin to take over my kitchen!   My girls love spreading the sauce and sprinkling (and eating) the cheese and then it starts “Mmmmm…..it smells so good!”  “How much longer?”   “Is it almost ready?”

Approx 20 minutes later…..DING!  It’s done!  Fresh, hot, homemade pizza for my family….and it makes me happy because it’s one meal I know everyone will eat!   Perfect for football Sunday,Super Bowl, or any time you want some pizza!

One important factor that really makes a huge difference in the taste of the pizza is the dough.  I’ve gotten different kinds…frozen, from the bakery, refrigerated….and once I found the perfect dough (local:  Stop N Shop in the bakery..it’s their own dough) I won’t use anything else.  It’s easy to roll and shape and the taste is like none other!  So make sure you try different brands to find a good fit!

Homemade Pizza

Olive Oil

Garlic (minced)



Large can of crushed tomatoes

Pizza dough (2 pounds = enough 2 pizzas)

Parmesan cheese

32oz of mozzarella cheese (shredded) OR I get the chunks and shred it myself!

Bring pizza dough to room temperature.  While waiting…….

Heat 1TBSP of olive oil in a pan.  Add garlic and basil for about 1 minute.  Add can of crushed tomatoes.  You can add any kind of seasonings to it that you’d like…oregano, hot pepper seeds, etc.  (My girls don’t like “brown stuff” in their gravy so I don’t add anything extra!)  Bring to boil and then lower to simmer.  Simmer on low for approx 25-30mins.

Preheat oven to 375° degrees.   While waiting for your gravy….

Using a small amount of olive oil grease your cookie sheets.

Once dough gets to room temp, begin rolling and stretching on well floured counter top until it gets to the size of your cookie sheets and the thickness you like your pizza..  I normally do rectangle cookie sheets, and like my pizza on the thinner side..but not extra thin.    You can use a round pizza pan, you can make your pizza crust thicker..it’s really whatever you like!

Once it’s to the thickness and size you’d like, carefully lift dough and place it on your cookie sheets/pizza pans.

Pinch gently around the perimeter to form a slight crust.


Using a cheese grater, shred your cheese (if you are going this route).


Your gravy should be done, or almost done.   Once it’s finished, ladle it on top of your crust and spread it evenly on top.  Make sure you leave some room around the edge for your “handle”.  


Next sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then nice handfuls of mozzarella cheese!  Spreading them evenly and using as much as you’d like! 

 Cook pizza in hot oven for approx 20-25 minutes, but keep checking it and cook to however you like it (crispy, well done, doughy, etc).   Normally 20 minutes is good for us, but we have a brand new oven and it really cooks everything evenly.  I know my Mom’s oven doesn’t so she has to cook it for longer and she sometimes rotates them during cooking time!

When you remove it from the oven, let it sit and settle for approx. 5 minutes.




Potato Soup’s On!

Baby, it’s cold outside……

In Jersey we’ve had some extremely cold temperatures lately.   Like -5°, feels like -70°.   Ok not that cold, but with all the talk…. and the kids missing school because it’s “too cold” and these crazy weathermen terms  like “Hercules” and “Polar Vortex”and people doing “fun” science experiments throwing boiling hot water into oncoming polar vortex wind gusts….giving themselves 3rd degree burns on their faces….one would think the entire U.S.A turned North Pole.   Well it’s not THAT cold, but it’s cold enough to keep me in the kitchen and not anywhere near the outside.

So last night I decided we need soup.    I set out to see what I had on hand and what kind of soup I wanted to make and decided on Potato Soup.   I found a bunch of different recipes……and kinda mashed them all together to create my own yummy soup!   It was the perfect dinner for a cold night (inside).  HA!    We really enjoyed it and I hope you do too!!!

Potato Soup

8 slices of bacon — chopped 

1 Medium Vidalia onion — diced

3 celery stalks — diced

3 carrots — cleaned and diced

8 small/medium russet potatoes — washed, peeled and diced

8 c. chicken broth

2.5 TBSP flour

1 c. milk

1/3 c heavy cream

1 tsp parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese.

In a large soup pot cook bacon until nice and crispy.


Remove bacon from pot and put aside.

Discard most of the oil — leaving a small amount in pot.

Add onions, celery and carrots and cook on medium heat until veggies are tender  (approx. 5-7 minutes).


Add diced potatoes and cook for another 8 minutes.


Add chicken broth and bring to boil.

Cook for 10 minutes on a gentle boil/simmer and until potatoes are tender.

In a seperate bowl, mix together milk and flour, removing lumps and pour into soup.

Cook for another 5-10 minutes –stirring often.

Remove soup in batches and puree in a blender until all is completely smooth.  

Add all soup back to the pot and add heavy cream, stir and heat it just for another few minutes.

Spoon into bowls and garnish with bacon pieces and shredded cheese.




Penne Vodka

Many years ago this recipe came to me via a message board I was on.  A lot of times someone would post a recipe and about 100 people would make it within a week of hearing about it….. and then give their 2 cents.  With this recipe everyone was raving that this was “the best vodka sauce recipe ever”…..I think one person even ventured to say she’d like to bathe in it, she liked it so much.  Sounds..kinda….I don’t know…..fun???   Once I made it, I had to agree!!

So I filled my tub with this stuff, (my family thought I was nuts) and ……

It’s really that good!

I have a few different ways I make/have made vodka sauce, but this one is by far the best!  It’s the perfect thickness, with the best flavors…. all rolled into one delicious bowl of pasta!   My kids and my husband both love it…so it’s a winner in our house.   It’s also a great thing to make extra of and freeze for a night when you don’t feel like cooking…it defrosts and reheats nicely and is just as good as the first time!  It’s also just as delicious leftover!

We aren’t a huge “leftover family” (is that even a phrase?  I dunno?) but I usually make just enough dinner that there isn’t anything left over for another night.   Not the case for this sauce!   I urge you to make extra and have a lot left over.

I think my anti-leftover mentality comes from  when my Mom would say (every so often), “LEFTOVERS TONIGHT!”  And all of us groaning because it was normally something we didn’t like the first time around…..which was why it was left over to begin with!   Makes sense…yes?  I grew up with 2 brothers, so normally the good stuff was gone, FAST…..and didn’t need another night.  The bad stuff….well it was packaged up for another night.  Secretly it probably made my Mom happy….because she didn’t have to cook that night.

“LEFTOVERS TONIGHT….we are having meatloaf!”  (((((((GROAN)))))))

I’ve gone off on a tangent and off the subject.  Get used to that…it will happen again.

ANYWAY…….Thanks, Amy for this delicious recipe!  I’ve tweaked it a bit…i think the original recipe had something other than bacon (imagine that??)…pancetta maybe?  Prosciutto?  I can’t remember…but I’m sure either work!  🙂

Penne Vodka

1 pound of penne pasta cooked

6 strips of bacon (chopped)

1/ 4 c Vodka 

2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 TBSP Olive Oil

1/2 of a Vidalia Onion

1 Large Can of Crushed Tomato

1 C. Romano Cheese

2 C. Heavy Cream

1/2 Stick of Butter

In a small bowl soak pepper flakes and vodka (NO MORE THAN 5-8 MINUTES if you don’t want it too spicy — the longer you soak the spicier it is). Then using a small colander, remove pepper flakes….keeping the vodka.

Saute bacon, oil and onion for 8 minutes in a medium pot.

Add crushed tomatoes and vodka. 

Cook on low for 30 minutes.

Add cheese, heavy cream and butter.

Cook for 25 minutes.

Cook pasta as directed on box and drain.

Make sure to keep stirring so the cheese doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn!

Serve over pasta.




Salsa Chicken

Here is a recipe that’s been circulating around the internet for awhile now.  I honestly have no idea where I originally got it or where it originally came from (if it’s yours, let me know)….but it seems most people know what I’m talking about when I say we are having it for dinner.  I also know that there are some variations of it and there’s a crockpot version too!  But this is one that I make every so often because I know everyone will eat it, it’s VERY simple and it’s yummy!!!  

I use Newman’s Own Pineapple Salsa in mine since I’m all for a sweet and savory and the flavor combines nicely with the chicken and cheese, but you can use any kind of salsa you’d like.  You can also adjust to your taste…if you like a little more spice, use a spicier taco seasoning.

Salsa Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

4 tsp. taco seasoning mix

1 cup of pineapple salsa (you can use any kind)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 TBSP sour cream (optional)


Preheat over to 375°.

1. Place chicken breast in lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken, and pour salsa over it.

2. Bake at 375° for 25 – 35 minutes, or until chicken is tender and juicy and it’s juices run clear.

3. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and continue baking for an additional 3 – 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream and serve.


**I waited too long to take these pictures and I also used my phone….pictures don’t do it’s justice!**DSC00886


Shrimp Scampi

This is a very simple and quick recipe that I make during the week!  My husband and both of my girls love it, so it’s a winner in our house!  It’s a  Cooking Light recipe ….and this is one I follow exact, because it’s very good,  light and delicious!  I throw it over angel hair pasta, but you can serve it with anything you want.  It’s extra good with some garlic bread and salad!

Shrimp Scampi 

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 7 shrimp)


2 teaspoons olive oil

28 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 1/2 pounds)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice



Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine, salt, and pepper; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook 30 seconds. Add parsley and juice; toss well to coat. Cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.




Rigatoni di Gregorio

Many years ago I participated in a Recipe Swap…..this recipe was carried over from my old blog, but it’s worth bringing it here!  Here was my post from wayyyy back when:

My week’s recipe came from Christina over at Tales from the Mad Men Kitchen, and it was her Rigatoni di Gregorio.    The recipe I submitted was (obviously) my family’s Lemon Chicken.

The recipe was easy and so delicious, but neither of my kids would eat it!  Both of my girl’s who LOVED mushrooms in the earlier years of their lives have suddenly boycotted them!   Now they won’t eat anything in the same room as a mushroom….it’s a shame, really!  But Joe and I enjoyed it!    I had to tweak the recipe also b/c I thought I had Marsala wine and I did not….it was red wine!  So I had to take that out of the recipe, but it was still very, very good!   Thanks, Christina!!!!

Rigatoni di Gregorio

Yield: 3-4 servings


8 oz. rigatoni

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

½ cup chopped yellow onion

4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. dry white wine

¼ cup Marsala wine  (I omitted)

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)

2 tsp. minced fresh basil

2 tsp. minced fresh parsley  (I used dried)

1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. butter

Directions:  Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 7-10mins (Christina said hers took 5-7, but I think my cutlets were thicker). If necessary, turn down the heat to medium-low so the outside doesn’t brown too quickly. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan with the heat on medium-high. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook until most of the liquid has been released and the onions are softened, about 5 minutes more. Mix in the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the wines, scraping with a spoon to deglaze the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the chicken broth. Return Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in the cream and cook until heated through. Add in the herbs, Parmesan and butter; mix until well blended and the butter is completely melted.

Add the cooked rigatoni to the pan and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately with additional grated Parmesan as desired.  ENJOY!!!!



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Keepin it Real since February 18, 2014

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